Before taking a few days off this weekend, Green Bay Packers' coaches will spend time evaluating their own performances in an effort to make the final seven games of the season better than the first nine.
As it stands, the Packers are in a good spot. At 6-3, they are in the thick of the NFC playoff chase. Their head coach is the main reason for that.
Employing a "no excuses" mentality as strongly as ever during his seven years as head coach, McCarthy has kept a sinking ship afloat. Just a month ago, the Packers were sitting at 2-3 with a Sunday night game at Houston looming against the unbeaten Texans. Now, winners of four straight, the Packers have new life -- even as injuries challenge the roster.
As Packer Report pointed out last Sunday, the Packers were without 11 of their preferred 22 starters by game's end against the Arizona Cardinals. Six of those players will miss the rest of the season or significant playing time and two more – Bryan Bulaga and Clay Matthews – could join that list.
McCarthy has dealt with such challenges before. During the 2010 season, the Packers overcame 15 players on injured reserve to win the Super Bowl. They had to win the final two regular-season games just to get in the playoffs that season after losing back-to-back games to the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots. The latter McCarthy prepped for by saying, "We're nobody's underdog."
A similar theme is playing out this season. Not many are looking at the Packers as Super Bowl contenders. And during their four-game winning streak, they have missed several key players due to injury.
Yet, they have preserved.
The common tie is McCarthy, who seems to do his best work in-season when times look the bleakest.
Just one season prior to the 2010 magical run, the Packers were 4-4 after losing to the 0-7 Buccaneers, yet rebounded to win seven of their last eight to streak into the playoffs.
In 2006, McCarthy's first season as a head coach, the Packers were 4-8 before narrowly missing out on the playoffs the last weekend of the regular season. Many teams would have given up at that point.
The only time McCarthy failed to right the ship was in 2008 when the Packers were 5-5 and coming off a thrashing of the Chicago Bears, only to lose their next five games. That was, of course, the season of transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, when McCarthy delivered his "The train has left the station" comment in the summer to indicate it was time for the team to move on.
That was also one of the first public "Pittsburgh macho" moments, a term made by general manager Ted Thompson upon hiring McCarthy, referring to the coach's roots. Even as McCarthy has adapted and altered his coaching ways, he never has lost that mentality. This team, with all it had and has going against it, seems to be buying in.
Only three other times have the Packers have had longer winning streaks during the regular season than they do now. In 2011, they ran off 13 in a row. In 2007, it was six in a row. And in 2009, five in a row was the high point.
The Packers' latest streak, however, has put them ahead of the Patriots for the best winning percentage (including the playoffs) since 2009. They have won 73 percent of their games (46-17) vs. 72.1 percent (44-17) for the Patriots.
That puts McCarthy at the top of his coaching profession in what could be considered the prime of his career. For this Packers team, that means everything.
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org